Where It All Began

1970 Chevelle

How did I get into old Fords you ask?

Or when was I diagnosed with this incurable disease as my wife would so lovingly put it. How did I get started in the whole old car thing, particularly cars and trucks of the Blue Oval realm? It didn’t happen overnight, more of a slow fade I guess you’d call it, but I suppose my upbringing would probably have something to do with it. It started out rather early for me, being I was rushed to the hospital on the day I entered into the world in my Dad’s 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396.

Now you’re probably imagining my mother, seconds from giving birth, screaming from the pains of labor as my Dad is banging gears and drifting the black with white SS-striped Chevelle sideways through the intersections of suburban Los Angeles en route to Bellwood General Hospital, racing against time and sliding the 402 big-block cowl induction equipped Chevelle into the ER unloading area with just seconds to spare. Sounds cool but it really wasn’t that dramatic and no I wasn’t delivered in the front seat of the Chevelle.

I was only a couple of years old when Dad sold the mighty Chevelle and took delivery of a new Medium Lime Metallic 1973 Ford Bronco 4X4. It was the first year the utilitarian Bronco was offered with an automatic transmission and power steering. Living in Anaheim, California at the time, I can only guess why a four-wheel drive sport-utility vehicle seemed practical for conquering the urban jungle. Dad had previously not been able to consider the Bronco because my Mom had never learned to drive a manual transmission equipped vehicle (which she still can’t to this day).

Dad sold the ’73 Bronco in 1977 upon hearing the announcement of the all new for 1978 full size Ford Bronco. He went down to Villa Ford in Orange, California and placed an order for a 1978 Bronco Ranger XLT, two-tone blue and white with the 400 cubic inch V8 and C6 automatic transmission. Upgrades soon followed with white spoke wheels, BF Goodrich tires, and a killer 8-track stereo system. Dad owned that Bronco into my high school years and would probably still own it had I not totaled it my junior year of high school. Although I have very few memories of the ’73, I have several regarding the ’78, the last of course being the day I killed it.

My sister and I like to reminisce about our family vacations in the big Bronco, heading through the central California valley in 95 plus degree heat, the backs of our shirts soaked in sweat from the vinyl seats. You almost had the sensation of swimming. Dad would never turn the air conditioning on because it hurt fuel mileage. Hard to believe now that Dad was worried about MPG when gas was less than a dollar a gallon. I never could figure out why Dad ordered the Bronco with air conditioning when he didn’t ever plan on using it. My Blue Oval bond was starting to cement though, and as I got older I naturally started jumping in the Ford camp when the Ford versus Chevy versus Dodge bench racing sessions would break out. I’ll admit I didn’t have a lot of technical knowledge back then but I knew my Dad’s Bronco was big and tough and even though I couldn’t drive I would put it up against anything out there.

Fast forward to 1987, the year I was able to start looking for my own car, well, I had to start looking for a job first as Dad made it known that if I wanted my own car I was going to have to be financially responsible for it. I had spent a lot of time in car magazines as a youth, starting out with my Dad’s Four Wheeler magazines before adding titles such as Hot Rod, Car Craft and Popular Hot Rodding into my reading appetite. Every Thursday was filled with hope as I rushed down to the corner market to grab the latest Auto Trader fresh off the presses (remember the days before Craigslist?).

My good friend Mike had just obtained a root beer brown 396 powered 1975 Chevrolet C10 Stepside which meant that the 1964 Chevrolet Impala 2-door Hardtop he and his Dad had purchased as a father and son project was suddenly up for grabs. I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, a ’64 Impala!”, conjuring up images of a sweet small block four-speed Super Sport on Cragars wrapped with 60-series Road Huggers. No, it was an anemic 6-cylinder (actually five because one of the cam lobes was flat) backed by a 3-speed column shift. The car didn’t have a straight panel on it. I had previously looked at a 1973 Dodge Charger with a 318 (Dad ruled that one out since the Torqueflite in it had lost reverse) and a 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe with a 351 Cleveland backed by a Toploader 4-speed (Dad ruled that one out for fear I would hurt myself or others). Since my friend Mike was willing to accept payments, the ratty Impala became mine for the paltry sum of $400. Stay with me, we’ll be getting to the Ford cars soon.

1963 NovaI drove the cantankerous Impala for a few months and quickly grew tired of the column shift hanging up (usually in the middle of an intersection) and we never could get the valve adjustment right because of the flat cam lobe. Dad converted the column shift to floor shift with a B&M shifter but tackling the flat cam was going to require an engine rebuild –the ol’ 230 was just plain tired- or an engine swap of some sort. We contemplated doing a V8 swap but instead decided to sell the Impala and begin the car hunt anew. We finally found a 1963 Chevrolet Nova SS that had a rebuilt 230 straight six backed by a Powerglide. The shoebox Nova served me well for a while but the itch was still there for something V8 powered. I wanted that throaty rumble only a V8 could provide. Again, Dad and I contemplated a V8 swap but on my budget, it just wasn’t feasible.

1966 SatelliteSo the Nova was sold and I hit the streets and classifieds again, looking for something V8 powered that would be obtainable with the $800 I had pocketed from the sale of the Nova. Perseverance finally paid off when I found a V8 car (2-door hardtop no less) in my price range. The car was actually pretty decent but my V8 bliss came in the form of a Pentastar, not yet that blue oval that I would come to embrace. It was a 1966 Plymouth Satellite with a 318 cubic inch V8 backed by an A904 Tourqeflite transmission. The rusty glasspack mufflers dangling underneath gave it that sound I had longed for. With its two-barrel small block under the hood the Plymouth wasn’t necessarily fast, but it sounded fast and that was all that mattered.

After bouncing around between a couple more Chevy II’s, another Plymouth B-body, a 1963 Buick Special 2dr-post, and even a 1968 Oldsmobile 442 Convertible with a 400 and 4-speed I finally sold my last Chevy II (’65 Nova) and in 1996 purchased a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 fastback 2-door hardtop. It had a 390 under the hood backed by a C6 automatic (originally a 352 Cruise-O-Matic ). It had a cheap black paint job which was laid over a previous red paint job which was laid over the original gold paint. I still have that car today although it hasn’t seen the road since the year 2000. The vinyl top adorning it wasn’t kind to the roof sheet metal underneath. Several rust holes have made their way into the roof and into the metal surrounding the rear window. Since the roof was already damaged, I decided to build the car into a 60’s era Nascar clone, similar to a car that would have been run on the road course at Riverside, California back in the day. The cage work has been done and I’ve collected quite a few odds and ends over the years but the car has mostly just collected dust in the shop for the past few years.

It’s been all Fords since I picked up that first Gal back in ‘96 (I’ve always owned Ford trucks) with the exception of ’66 Plymouth Satellite 383 4-speed I played around with for a couple years. I’ve owned a couple other daily-driver ‘64 Galaxies as well as a ’64 Fairlane over the last few years but my current driver is a ’61 Galaxie Club Victoria 2-dr hardtop. It has a ’64 vintage 390 under the hood and is backed by a Toploader 4-speed. Also in the stable are a 1961 Galaxie Starliner, ‘1963 Galaxie 500 2-dr hardtop (Boxtop), 1964 Mercury Montclair Marauder 2-dr hardtop, and 1964 Fairlane 2-dr post. On the pick-up side there is a 1966 F100 4X2 longbed, a 1962 F100 Unibody longbed, and a few years ago I couldn’t resist picking up a Medium Lime Metallic 1973 Ford Bronco 4X4. So there you have it, how I got to where I am today. I call it preserving history, my wife calls it a Craigslist experiment gone wrong. However you look at it, I can only hope that these cars are enjoyed and preserved by many generations to follow. They just don’t make them like that anymore. Have you driven an old Ford lately?


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